Monday, July 27, 2009

The USS Baltimore..A most remarkable unremarkable American navy vessel

The USS Baltimore lived a very long charmed life. Her existence goes from going into service in January 1890 to finally being scraped in 1942. Few vessel have lived so long and such a varied life as hers.The Baltimore was an early steel navy vessel based on much of the work of an inventor who would always be a part of this vessel. Although he never saw her, John Ericsson the great Swedish inventor who created the original Monitor of 1862 and many afterwards, the screw propeller for ships, and many other wonderful inventions for the United States Navy. Ericsson died in early 1889. In August of 1890 it was decided to send his body back to his his native homeland. The Baltimore was selected to be the vessel who would have the honor to bring back the body of John Ericsson.
John Ericsson 1803-1889
This is a photograph of the Baltimore leaving New York Harbor with the body of Ericsson on board. The USS Boston is firing a salute to Ericsson. There was a massive ceremony in New York. Ericsson's body had been kept in the Marble Cemetery while things were prepared in Sweden to accept his remains. His coffin was cloth covered and sealed in a massive mahogany lead lined outer cover. A very heavy coffin to be sure. On the coffin was placed both the US flag and that of Sweden. On the foremast of the Baltimore as you will see was the flag of Sweden as well.
A panting of that scene in New York Harbor
The Baltimore was all over the globe in the early 1890's. She was in Venezuela during military disputes and soon on the west coast of the US. She was at Mare Island for a while and then in Hawaii till early1898.
The Baltimore soon found herself in Asian waters and as fate would have it, she became part of Dewey's squadron in Hong Kong. She was part of the great battle of Manila Bay. She stayed in that area patroling till 1900.
Then she spend a few years at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. By 1903 she was on the move again. She was part of the Caribbean, Asiatic, and the North Atlantic fleet. By 1911 she was a relic from a distant age already. She was changed into a receiving ship at the Charleston Navy yard. That is usually a sign time is about to run out.
However, things changed and she was made into a mine layer and recommissioned in 1915. She was used in tests and practices in mine laying in the Charleston area. In 1918 the old vessel was sent to Europe to lay mines all around Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland .
The Mine Layer USS Baltimore in 1916. She would serve in Europe till early 1919. Then she sailed for the West coast of the USA and joined the Pacific Squadron. She was there till early 1921. After that she sailed for Pearl Harbor where she was in service till she was placed out of commission as she had been so many times before. But now it was the summer of 1922 and she was 32 years old.
However fate interceded and she became a receiving ship again for Pearl Harbor. She was in the company there of another old timer of the early steel navy, the USS. Kearsarge. In fact by this time the Kearsarge has been changed into a Crane ship. Her hull supported a massive heavy duty crane.
The Baltimore just slowly rusted away in her post as a receiving ship. By 1937 she was pushing 50 and not really even usable as a receiving ship. She was taken of the lists. However she did not go, she stayed there and rusted.
She was there during the attack on Pearl harbor on December 7, 1941. But now with a new war starting there was no use for this old rust bucket of another age. She was finally sold for scrap in February of 1942. She entered this world and left it a lady. As I said in the title, a remarkable, unremarkable ship.